CBC Uncritically Endorses World Economic Forum Policies

According to the CBC, Buying our way out of pandemic malaise is hurting the planet, experts say. Whenever “experts” are quoted, I’m immediately skeptical. What do they say? Who do they work for?

As COVID-19 infection numbers eased in recent months, provinces have relaxed restrictions and encouraged people to spend again. While this was meant to provide a collective boost in the middle of a stubborn pandemic, this summer has put on another horror show of extreme weather — including a deadly heat dome and rampant wildfires in British Columbia and northwestern Ontario and drought in the Prairies.

Returning to normal is not intended to provide a “boost”. It’s intended to prevent even more businesses from going bankrupt. Restaurants that were hanging by a thread can now at least hope to stay in business, though their owners probably won’t be able to do much more than pay their bills for a while as they pay back debts incurred by the government’s forced closures of their businesses.

Earlier this week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a dire report that stated unequivocally that climate change was human-made and that some of its catastrophic effects were already on view.

I’ve been reading the summary for policy makers, which is itself a whopping 46 pages, and will comment more fully soon. One of the effects mentioned in the report is an increased growing season in the northern hemisphere, which is far from a catastrophe.

The destruction we’re seeing now is fuelled by decades of environmental harm, but it is also coming at a time when politicians and marketers alike are prompting us to spend — whether it’s at the mall, at the car dealership or on so-called revenge travel.

Who listens to politicians?

Mass consumption inevitably adds stress to the natural world, in the form of resource extraction and carbon emissions.

True. This is why we need to reduce the global population. This is the number one thing that would reduce CO2 emissions.

“There is always discussion that we should as consumers spend money to fuel up businesses,” said Bengi Akbulut, assistant professor of geography, planning and environment at Concordia University in Montreal.

Companies want you to buy their goods. Politicians, who are bought and paid for by corporations, want you to buy their donor’s goods.

“But I think the broader tension [right now] is whether we can grow our way out of the ecological breakdown.”

If growth comes from efficiency, it can benefit the ecology. Growth in sales of electric vehicles, solar panels, energy efficient appliances, and double glazed windows can also help. So, while I agree most growth comes at the cost of higher emissions, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

As Canada works to bounce back after pandemic-induced economic losses, we look at what’s changed when it comes to what we buy. And we find out if reimagining our relationship to our stuff could help fight climate change.

Most people couldn’t give a toss. You need to convince people that it’s in their own interests to change. As long as electric cars cost an arm and a leg (even with tax payer subsidies), the average Joe isn’t going to buy one. Here’s a great example of a green product that has an instant appeal: battery powered lawn mowers and chain saws are great because they are less noisy, more reliable, and their motors require less maintenance. The cost of these appliances is higher for the first one, but if you stick with a single line of products, one battery can often be used in multiple tools.

When the economy takes a hit, financial analysts often tout consumer spending as an important means to recovery.

Financial analysts work for the banks, whose profits depend largely on their business customers, so they want you to buy their goods.

As a result of multiple COVID-19 lockdowns, many Canadians have significant savings — and a lot of pent-up demand. In March, the Bank of Canada estimated that Canadians had built up savings of $180 billion during the pandemic. At the time, the bank’s deputy governor, Lawrence Schembri, said that if 15 per cent of that were spent through 2023, it would speed up Canada’s economic recovery.

Lawrence Schembri is an Economist and an academic. Who cares what he says?

Peter Victor, professor emeritus in environmental studies at York University in Toronto, said that going back to 1900, economic growth across the world has largely been accompanied by increases in fossil-fuel use, mining and land development, all of which have a negative impact on sustainability.

To make goods requires energy. It would be better to buy locally made goods, as these don’t have to be shipped across the Pacific Ocean and our energy is far cleaner than the energy used by the Chinese to produce consumer goods. If you want to decrease fossil fuel use, why not place tariffs on countries whose energy sectors are more fossil fuel intensive that ours? One of the biggest new sources of mining and land development is Lithium mining, which is essential for reducing fossil fuel consumption. Some mining is required for sustainability.

“The idea of growing economically out of these problems just isn’t plausible,” said Victor, author of the book Managing Without Growth.

No shit, Sherlock.

Some politicians and business people believe that attempts to lower carbon emissions will automatically hurt gross domestic product (GDP). Thanks in large part to greater energy efficiency and a reduction in the use of coal power, some jurisdictions, such as the U.K. and the state of California, have shown that an economy can in fact continue to grow even as it reduces emissions, a process known as “decoupling.”

Efficiency can help grow GDP without increasing emissions. Since Canada does little manufacturing, lowering our own CO2 emissions will have little impact on the price of consumer goods. It will be hard to reduce emissions from farming without new technologies that can do so. Carbon capture is expensive, and transport isn’t very amenable to electrification due to the massive weight of the lithium batteries required. The government has proven largely incapable of accelerating adoption of electric vehicles by commuters, despite spending a fortune on incentives which largely went to wealthy enthusiasts of the technology. The two obvious areas for our government to invest are public transit and conversion of coal and gas fired plants to workable green alternatives, including nuclear power.

“If it was just climate change, it would be bad enough,” Victor said, citing other pressing ecological issues, such as biodiversity loss and deforestation.”There’s so much troubling evidence of the burden the human species is placing on the planet right now.”

And this brings us back to reducing the global population. Canadians are doing our part. Our fertility rate has been below the replacement rate (2.1) since the early seventies, and long been around 1.5.

The emphasis on consumer spending and economic growth at the expense of environmental health is leading some to explore a model called “degrowth.” The term, which has its origins in the French word décroissance, has become associated with European thinkers such as Giorgos Kallis, a Spanish-based ecological economist and co-author of the book The Case for Degrowth.

Who pays attention to the economists? How will degrowth be achieved?

Concordia’s Akbulut says degrowth aims to reduce the amount of energy and resources taken from the biosphere in the production and consumption of goods and services, and to create an economy that is more oriented toward environmental stewardship, as well as wealth redistribution and social justice.

So communism, then.

She says degrowth isn’t a blueprint per se, but a way to think differently about how society is organized. At the moment, she said, economic growth “smothers and … dominates other social goals that a society might deem preferable.”

I deem it preferable that society doesn’t redistribute my wealth. Akbulat can get effed.

Some economists argue that degrowth is a case of “magical thinking” and that an emphasis on managing economic growth, as opposed to encouraging it, would lock a large number of people into poverty.

Communism has indeed proven good at locking millions into poverty, and even killing them due to starvation.

Akbulut says that to ensure all citizens have enough money to live, a degrowth economy would likely include measures such as work-sharing and some form of universal basic income.

Where will this universal basic income come from? Taxation? Who will pay? Clearly not the poor. Will governments increase taxes on corporations? This would certainly aid in degrowth, but it’s hard to believe that those in power would allow it. Would the wealthy be taxed? The rich are those who can best afford ways to (often legally) hide their income and wealth. Alternately, they can afford to leave for greener pastures. Increasing taxes on the middle class will cause it to shrink, thereby creating an even greater need to tax it as the number of people depending on universal basic income increases.

“As long as we’ve fixed the basic problem, which is overusing planetary resources, those economic measures of GDP and GDP per capita become far less significant,” Victor said.

Correct. Overpopulation is the problem.

Whether it’s called degrowth or something else, many people say countries need to re-examine what constitutes a healthy, rewarding life.

In the words of Jerry Sienfeld, “Who are these people?”

“We need to transform our notion of progress, because right now, our notion is defined by economic variables of wealth generation or GDP,” said Amanda Janoo, knowledge and policy lead for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, a Scottish-based organization working to help economies put a greater focus on “sustainable wellbeing.”

A quick look at the WEA website found the publication “Wellbeing Economics for the Covid-19 Recovery: Ten Principles to Build Back Better”. This is a slogan of the World Economic Forum, a group of wealthy oligarchs who meet annually in Davos and want to use the pandemic as an excuse to replace capitalism.

While consumption plays such a large, tantalizing part in modern society, Janoo said that when people are asked directly what matters to their personal well-being, their answers are typically more prosaic: housing security, connections to other people, a meaningful job, a healthy planet.

Housing security, which is one of our basic needs, relies on having a the means of providing for it, along with food and clothing, which requires either holding a job or depending on the welfare state. Both jobs and the welfare state rely on a healthy economy. If you think a socialist state doesn’t rely on a healthy economy, please explain the fact that Venezuela plans to devalue the currency by six zeros to curb inflation.

Five countries — Scotland, New Zealand, Iceland, Wales and Finland — have signed on to the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership, with the aim of sharing ideas about how to run states that emphasize personal and ecological well-being.

I hope for their people’s sake that they aren’t climbing into bed with the World Economic Forum.

For example, in 2019, New Zealand released its first “Well-being Budget,” which is informed by data on living standards and puts individual well-being and environmental sustainability at the heart of budgeting decisions.

If the budget is the only thing impacted, it probably doesn’t matter much. Most of the money taken in tax by governments might as well have been set fire to anyway. If these WEF style policies start dictating industry regulation, I’d fear the worst. New Zealand’s top exports are dairy, meat, wood, fruit, cereal, beverages, and fish. These are all industries that require farming, with it’s CO2 emissions and land and water use, or harvesting natural resources. If regulation makes these exports uncompetitive due to increased costs, how will the country be able to afford to buy the machinery, vehicles, fuel, plastics, drugs, animal feed and metals it imports in exchange?

“It’s a pretty profound transformation that we need to undertake in order to deal with climate change and biodiversity loss, but I’m really hopeful that we’re at that moment,” Janoo said. “The urgency is there.”

The voting public will punish any government that isn’t perceived as prioritizing ending the pandemic, restoring the economy and jobs, and curbing inflation. Canada will likely go to the polls in September. Will the Liberal government, which espouses strong action on climate, be returned to office, or will the pandemic benefit the opposition Conservatives? We’ll see, I suppose. I support neither party, nor the socialist New Democrats.

While emphasizing well-being over economic growth is a hard sell for many politicians, Victor said that COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for people to reconsider what matters in life.

A strong economy is synonymous with well being. In countries like Canada, where a large proportion of that economy is based on extracting resources, including fossil fuels, shrinking those sectors will be hard without making people reconsider what matters in a government.

“There are those out there saying, ‘Now we can get past the pandemic and go back to consuming,’ but I think there’s a big question about … how many people are out there who are saying, ‘Well, I’m not sure I want to carry on doing what we were doing before.'” Victor said.

I don’t think it’s a big question. The vast majority of apolitical normies do want to go back to living as they always have. The question is, will the minority who want to subvert the system for gain (the oligarchs) or ideology (their useful idiots) succeed, or will we instead continue to improve quality of life, and make that sustainable via productivity improvements (working from home, for example) and by decreasing the world population.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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